Listen, I’m newly addicted to Netflix’s DocuSeries Ugly Delicious .. (Btw, where is Season 2!?)
Outside of watching Dave Chang and Co. eat good food in almost every scene.
This show gives you a catalog of episodes based around foods you’re probably all familiar with but focuses the lens to ask the relevant questions we haven’t thought of when we consume some of this food and explores the culture behind it with genuine passion.
The docuseries uncovers the truth about where the food we eat comes from through the narratives of locals and the people who are masterfully crafting the food with ingredients indigenous to their own culture.
It’s humorous, heartwarming, inspiring and witty, aesthetically pleasing and a darn good lesson worth binge-watching.
Below are just a few of the things I picked up.
1. 3 Ways to Identify Authentic Tacos
Flip open your notepad-
Don’t Understand the Language: “Taco USA” author Gustavo Arellano cites going to places where you don’t understand some of the words on the menu as one of the tell-tell signs of great tacos.
“If you don’t know that word, that’s where you wanna go. Cause’ that’s going to tell you immediately this is regional stuff .”
Salsa Game Strong: Just a red or green salsas to choose from? Meh, Arellano says to look for the places with several options to choose from and more complex creations native to the region.
Tortilla Game Strong:
“If you see a packet of tortillas, right next to your taquero, run,” Arellano says. Arellano and Jonathan Gold –food critic for Los Angeles Times– both agree, there should be someone making fresh tortillas for the best tacos.
2. Flour Tortillas Come from the Spaniards
The Spanish introduced wheat flour when they conquered the Aztecs, formerly only eating corn tortillas.
3. Mexico’s Central De Abastos Is the Largest Open Market in the World
Michelin-starred chef Eduardo “Lalo” Garcia introduced Central de Abastos in Ep. 2 “Tacos” as the largest open market in the world with its own police force and it’s own transportation system. It is the central point for all things coming from Mexico and boasts a huge landscape of complex and exciting ingredients; a chef’s heaven.
4. How Nashville Hot Chicken Started
If you thought Nashville Hot Chicken got so hot by playing around with spices in a small kitchen in Nashville, think again.
As food writer Lolis Eric Elie tells it, a woman found out her lover was doing wrong by her and took the passive-aggressive route to spite him by spicing up his chicken so hot she’d hope he’d get a burning throughout his body. The irony, and to her dismay, he actually enjoyed the chicken and just like that Nashville Hot Chicken came to be.
5. “There are More Chinese Restaurants in America than Mcdonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Kentucky Fried Chickens Combined”
“Chinese food is the most pervasive food on the planet, served on all 7 continents including Antartica,” says Chinese food Historian, Jennifer Lee and concludes it is especially concentrated in America.
In the small town where I live and the surrounding area, I always noted the almost ubiquitous presence of fast-food chains, McDonald’s especially, but it comes as no surprise there are more Chinese-American eateries.
However, the difference is Chinese-American restaurants are not under highly publicized franchise names.
6. Chinese Food Is More Than Meets the Eye
Chinese food is far more complex and more than the crisp textures preferred by Westerners. In fact, general tso’s chicken and egg rolls are indigenous to America. While food in China is expansive in reference to the various textures you can find.
7. The Origin of Tortellini
In Ugly Delicious’s “Stuffed” episode (S.1, E.8) Chang travels to Bologna’s Le Sfogline where owners Daniel and Monica Zappeli specialize in tortellini.
Daniel tells the story of the famous Battle of Zappolino dating back to 1325, where Modena and Bologna fought gruesomely causing Venus the Goddess to intervene.
Later she laid down to rest.
The innkeeper crept into her bedroom to awake her from a naked slumber and was impressed with the sight of her belly button and later decided to reproduce Venus’s belly button with dough i.e. tortellini.
8. Pizza Is Subjective by Nature
Who’s to say NY Pizza is the pinnacle of what pizza should be? or even Neopolitan, New Haven or Chicago Deep Dish?
Ugly Delicious’s “Pizza” episode really amps up this idea of authenticity while going against its force simultaneously.
The big idea?
Pizza is rebellious by nature and a catalyst for storytelling from all corners of the world; essentially no pizza is the same.
Chang talks with the pizza purist like Mark Lucano owner of Brooklyn’s Lucali (Chang’s favorite pie) and then trots across the globe for the extreme opposite of what American pizza is considered; a pizza with mayonnaise as a sauce and tuna as a topping from Chef Ryu Yoshimura in Tokyo.
The ironic thought is, Yoshimura does not consider this fusion, and of course, he is right, the ingredients are entirely sourced from Japan and created with Japanese techniques.
Even in America where toppings are traditional in the sense of cheese and tomato sauce (though not always), we put pineapple, egg, shrimp and a plethora of untraditional toppings on our pizza.
There is no clear boundary line declaring we’ve gone too far by connesuiers or cooks alike; pizza is at the whim of its creator.